Rising graduate unemployment has created a pool of high-quality potential employees, according to automotive specialist Coachworks Consulting.
But it is a resource that will go largely untapped unless franchises improve recruitment methods and the sector as a whole tackles the stigma attached to car sales as a career.
International consultancy Coachworks believes retailers often employ salespeople with limited potential because the selection process is flawed – an oversight that costs franchises money.
Karl Davis, Managing Director at Coachworks, said: “The fact that car sales isn’t seen by enough people as a desirable career means you often see an under-performing salesperson from one retailer moving with little trouble to another one.
“The issues caused by a lack of quality candidates are then made worse by selection procedures that can be pretty shoddy.
“In many cases the receipt of a poor CV and the completion of an ill-prepared interview results in an offer of employment.
“But what sort of message does this send out? How can a job be viewed as the entrance to a fulfilling and credible long-term career if the recruitment process is so slack?
“Taking on the wrong people costs retailers money in lost sales and the need for intensive training further down the line.”
A quarter of 21-year-olds who graduated last year are unemployed, and the Office for National Statistics has found that 36 per cent of recent graduates are in a lower-skilled job compared to 26.7 per cent in 2001.
Mr Davis said: “With so many graduates looking for work or on low wages, it should be much easier to attract high-calibre applicants with a job that could earn them £40,000 a year and comes with a car.
“As it is, it’s a struggle to hire a team of eager, willing and capable salespeople. That’s partly because car sales still has a certain amount of stigma attached to it.”
Mr Davis called on the RMI and the SMMT to combine resources to attend job fairs to sell the sector as a career choice.
And he urged retailers to work on reducing staff turnover and to use motivated existing employees to encourage other high-calibre jobseekers to join the business.
Coachworks has produced a White Paper on how to fill vacancies with the right people.
Hiring for Growth: How to Recruit High-quality Salespeople is available as a free download from the home page.